A proud Kentuckian—by birth and now, by choice—Grayson Jenkins sings his stories with a shrewd sincerity, a hopeful resignation, and a canny insight into the ways of the world; a world that found him, like many others, putting his life and career on hold for the last year and a half. But now that the world is turning again, Jenkins is ready to unshelve a treasure trove of songs with Turning Tides, a full-length album due out August 27th. Jenkins delivers candor and vulnerability with his signature resonant baritone; powerful enough to fill large halls but still tender enough to cradle his lyrics and deliver them straight into listeners’ hearts. Today, Jenkins’ shared for album-opener, “Mockingbird,” a bright pop-inflected track whose joyous, rollicking vibe belies the sadness of the story it tells: the end of a relationship, the persistent lingering memories of a lover, and the difficult determination to move on. The Bluegrass Situation caught up with Jenkins to learn more about the tune and its origin. “I had just broken up with my girlfriend of four years and was a bit of a mess,” he said. “I decided to go camping in my van and to see Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan in Milwaukee. The first line for this song came from a bird that was chirping non-stop by my van one morning. I couldn’t get it to leave, kind of like her memory. It was a good trip but I didn’t come back with anything but a broken heart, toll tickets, a sunburn, and this song.” Fans can listen to “Mockingbird” right here and pre-order or pre-save Turning Tides ahead of its August 27 release.
The album’s title track rides in on a Dick Dale-like guitar lick before shimmering slide guitar runs provide a bed for Jenkins’ slow-burning vocals; the song evokes the uncertainty that dark times bring and the glimmering rays of anticipation that change brings. With sonic echoes of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “The Ballad of Curtis Loew,” “Turning Tides” cannily rockets from the instrumental bridge into a bright major key. Jenkins points out that for him the primary meaning of the song is “hope and optimism. Like a lot of folks, I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety. Coming out of those hard times is one of the greatest feelings in the world and this song was written about that.” In the end, Jenkins feels just like the character from the song: “Ready for the sun to shine and the tide to turn.”
Like “Turning Tides” and “Mockingbird,” the songs on Turning Tides all tell captivating stories of love and loss, heartbreak and hope. For Jenkins, the arc of the album follows transitions in his own life—moving into music full-time, emerging into a post-pandemic phase of life, leaving behind one relationship and starting another—and offers perspectives on the changes we all experience in our lives as we move from sadness to joy, from self-denial to self-discovery, from darkness to light.
Turning Tides Tracklist:
Low Down Lady
Turning Tides (Acoustic)